Keeping livestock records can pay off

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Many beef cattle producers do not like recordkeeping. While almost everyone has some type of financial recordkeeping system for tax purposes, many cattle producers do not keep records on animal production within their herds. Unfortunately for those folks, they are missing important financial or production information that could increase income or assist with management decisions.

Production records don't have to be complicated in order to be useful. Calving records are the first step and there are three options: (1) write down the date the first calf is born, (2) write down the number of calves born each day of the calving season, or (3) individually identify each calf and record its' date of birth and mother.

Option one opens up age and source verified marketing possibilities. It takes a little planning, time, and effort to do the paperwork and get the ear tags for age and source verification, but the payoff, at least in past years, has been well worth the effort. This is about the closest thing to free money that exists in the cattle business and all that is needed initially is to write a date down on a calendar.

Option two collects information that may be useful in troubleshooting breeding or performance problems. Group calves on paper into 21-day calving intervals. The goal is to have as many calves as possible born during the first or second 21-day period of the calving season. Older calves are almost always the heaviest calves, so having more calves born early in the calving season should increase the pounds of calf sold off the farm. Holes in the calving distribution calendar may indicate bull or cow fertility problems or other management issues that need attention. Knowing calving distribution also allows for formation of management groups, especially for feeding and breeding purposes.

Option three allows for more precise management of the herd. It opens the possibility of using computer recordkeeping systems to track bull, cow, calf, and overall herd performance.

Individual animals can be identified as replacement prospects based on the production records of their dams, or animals can be identified for culling based on performance or other criteria.

The usefulness of production records cannot be overemphasized. However, simply collecting data is a worthless exercise. Records do need to be studied and the information they contain needs to be used in order for the effort to be worthwhile.

If you are looking for a method of keeping production records, many county extension offices have the "Red Books" available for purchase. These books contain places to record most of the annual activities that occur on a beef operation. Contact me at the extension center in Warsaw at (660) 438-5012 if you have additional questions. University of Missouri Extension is an equal opportunity / ADA institution.